People and businesses have cause for concern if a negative post, comment or review ranks high on a search engine result page (SERP). The good news, however, is that the laws of 75 percent are on the side of the victim. Research shows that 75 percent of Internet users never scroll past the first page, and 75 percent of all clicks go to the first five results. That means that if businesses can push negative search results out of the top five spots — or better yet, off the first page altogether — they can mitigate at least three-quarters of the potential damage. What are strategies businesses can adopt to accomplish the suppression of negative posts or reviews?
- Hire a reputation management company: Work with a good reputation management company to pursue negative post suppression on your behalf. Be sure to hire a well-vetted, trustworthy firm — unscrupulous or incompetent companies can actually create more damage by antagonizing the person responsible for the negative post or creating gibberish content that can reflect poorly on your company. Here you can find additional information on why managing your reputation is important.
- Constructively engage: Resist the urge to argue with the person who created the negative post. Instead, engage constructively and try to resolve the problem amicably. Just the act of reaching out and trying to come to an agreement by itself can improve your chances of getting the post removed.
- Focus on SEO: You can push negative posts down by enhancing SEO and tagging prior to publishing content. Use your full, real name, add contact information and use accurate page titles.
- Update your website: Add new content to your website and social channels that portrays you and your business in positive light. Video is especially powerful, so focus on creating YouTube, Vimeo and Vine content first.
- Conduct a public relations campaign: One excellent way to mitigate damage is to get mentioned by influential, authoritative websites, which have a tendency to rank high in the SERPs. One of the simplest ways to achieve this goal is to send out a professional, informative press release through sites like PR Newswire.
- Create new social media profiles: Create and populate accounts for social networks where you don’t yet have a presence, with the most important being Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google+. Remember, only create profiles that you can actively manage — stalled participation equals lower rankings.See also: Five ways that social media has changed the face of business branding.
- Start a blog: Remember — the goal is to muscle negative content down by overwhelming it with positive content.
- Lend your expertise: Everyone is an expert in something, and Google rewards industry publications or blogs that include expert interviews or testimonials. Sign up for a service like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which pairs reporters and content creators with experts like you.
- Add comments: Submit thoughtful, compelling comments to articles and blogs that accept feedback.
- Set up a Google Alert: Google Alerts is a fast, easy way to be notified when you, your brand, your website or business are mentioned. Prevention is the goal, and a Google Alert can help you get out in front of a bad review before it infects the SERPs.
- Revise old pages: Clean up existing pages on your website and edit slugs on old, archived pages that may be the source of negative comments.
- Guest blog: You should work to write as a guest blogger for established blogs, but don’t stop there. Ask for an author bio — author bios tend to rank high in search results.
- Create a Wikipedia page: Wikipedia pages rank high. The Wikipedia Article Wizard will guide you through the process of establishing your own page.
- Ask Google: Finally, Google will remove content from search results in some limited, specific situations. If the objectionable link contains copyright violations, national identification numbers (such as Social Security numbers), financial information or other sensitive material that fits into Google’s removal policies, it is likely that Google will simply take it down upon request.
Although it is not always possible to remove negative content from SERPs, it is certainly possible to push them down so far that they become irrelevant. Most of the strategies involve best practices for good online brand management anyway, so many businesses emerge from the process stronger.